I want to apologize to those readers who have been following this blog for the extensive lapse in postings for the last two months. I have been working on my book about milennialism and have found it difficult to switch gears. But it has occurred to me that I have failed to use a great resource — my readers — in preparing my book. As a result, I would like to post some of the passages from my book to get your feedback.
The first posting I’m putting up is a section that I’m not sure I will keep in the book. It comes from the last chapter on Global Jihad as an apocalyptic movement. I’m not sure that I can make this argument well — it’s a huge and problematic literature, riddled with functionalist retrospective explanations that’s hard to combat effectively without doing my own research. Any suggestions, including other sources, would be most appreciated.
The Apocalyptic Origins of Suicide Terrorism
The marginal quality of apocalyptic thinking and the kinds of violent actions that it inspired comes across quite clearly in the issue of suicide terrorism against Israeli civilians. Predatory martyrdom – killing yourself as part of a Jihad against enemy soldiers – has plenty of Qur’anic support, even though it is not a “constant” of Muslim history. Nor is it uniquely Muslim. Kamikaze pilots had already shown the world how warriors, who would rather die with honor in battle than survive in shame, deal with certain defeat. This kind of suicidal attack on enemy troops first appeared in the Middle East as part of the new global Jihad, when Hizbullah chased the Americans out of Lebanon with two massive suicide operations in 1983.
Suicide terrorism – attacks deliberately targeting civilians – has a different ethos. Here, any claim to warrior’s honor fails. As Sheik of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Tantawi wrote:
Any explosion that leads to the death of innocent women and children is a criminal act, carried out only by people who are base, cowards and traitors, because a rational man with just a bit of respect and manliness, refrains from such operations altogether.
Few warrior traditions do not condemn attacks on civilians, a fortiori, a monotheistic religion claiming to serve a merciful God and to treasure every human life as a universe. The ideologue of modern, apocalyptic Jihad, Sayyid Qutb, cited the Qur’an and insisted:
Do not kill any women, children or elderly people (Muhammad’s successor Abu Bakr).” “Fight for the cause of God those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression. God does not love aggressors (Qur’an 2:190).”
These principles had to be strictly observed, even with those enemies who had persecuted them and inflicted unspeakable atrocities on them.
To commit suicide while targeting innocent women and children, then, as some bombers did starting in 1993, demands a major transgression, one that offends basic civilized norms. People do not readily commit suicide, much less send their children to do so, much less, to kill children. First, as a basic issue of Islamic Sharia, there is a commandment not to kill the defenseless civilians among one’s enemy unless they kill yours. Indeed, one disciple of Abdullah Azzam claimed that what distinguished his master from Osama bin Laden, was precisely this issue:
[T]here is no way that a real Mujahid, a ‘man’ like Abdullah Azzam, who was fond of the Salafi creed, the companions and Ibn Taimiyyah, would lower himself to the methods that Ibn Laden used and advocated or even condone such terrible acts and deviation from the true jihad. How can a Mujahid like him end up killing women and children, attacking civilian non-Muslims, blowing up places of worship…
When, in the early 1990s, Hamas first introduced suicide terrorism – martyrdom operations – opposition came even from their own ranks. To explain it, one must not only explain how marginal activists and theologians defend it, but how a public embraces it. When the IRA tried suicide terrorism, the opprobrium that ensued guaranteed that that was the last such attempt. Suicide terrorism needs public approval to move from the margins to the center.
The academic literature on the origins of suicide bombing works almost exclusively ex post facto and has a heavy functionalist bias. Once it has become popular, once the suicides are praised by their families, acclaimed as “martyrs” by the Imams and the public alike, once TV sequences show the gorgeous, unveiled, eager female sexual partners that await the dead man in heaven – once it has become socially normalized – then one can posit some more pedestrian motivations for suicide bombing… like humiliating check points, or peer pressure, or resistance to occupation, or even “despair at not having hope.” But long before that can happen, many inhibitions – religious, cultural, human – must all fall victim to something still more powerful.
To explore the phenomenon ex post ante, as turkey rather than bat historians, let us look more closely at the millennial stakes at play in its origins. Rather than invoke public opinion as a key explanation, we need to ask: What drove some men to develop a theology of suicide terrorism? And what made it so popular? To do so, we must consider the situation of Hamas and their Palestinian constituency when they made the “leap.” From a millennial perspective, it makes sense that it would occur in Gaza, by an apocalyptic group dedicated to global Jihad, during the “Oslo Peace Process.”
Oslo created an apocalyptic crisis for both Israeli and Arab activist millennials – for the messianic settlers, disciples of Zvi Yehuda Kook, it meant reversing the wheels of destiny: giving back sacred territory defied their apocalyptic scenario in which that land’s conquest was part of a redemptive historical process. Similarly, to those radicals committed to Jihad against Israel and the West, the very idea of compromise represented a humiliation and a renunciation of the claim to the entire Waqf of the land of Israel.
Such a collapse of one’s redemptive historical scenario provokes a crisis of faith: supremely confident while things go their way,such reversals often trigger the trip switch from passive to active, transformational to violent. Such shifts in turn intensified the apocalyptic dynamic of “one person’s messiah is another’s Antichrist.” Each side saw the other increasingly as an implacable enemy, and in addition to longstanding free-lance Arab violence against Israeli civilians which intensified throughout the early 1990s, religious Jews engaged in unprecedented violence – an intentional massacre of Arab civilians (Baruch Goldstein, Hebron, February 1994); and the first assassination of an Israeli Prime Minister (November, 1995). 
For the apocalyptic Muslims, as well, Oslo defied sacred history. Dedicated at their core to the irredentist scenario, they could view negotiations only as betrayal, treason against all three circles of the apocalyptic “us” – Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. With the PLO pursuing negotiations (regardless of whether in good faith or not), and even a fair number of Palestinians expressing optimism in resolving the conflict without eliminating the Israeli presence, Hamas found itself faced with a contradiction to its faith in the juggernaut of its total victory, a development that left them temporarily speechless.
One response, among the more “conventional thinkers” was to justify the truce and “move away” from the theme of the destruction of Israel. The Hamas intellectual, Bassam Jirrar pursued this option with a very popular book, in which he created an apocalyptic extender, a temporal buffer between “now” and the Endtime in a popular book, Israel’s Destruction in 2022. Cook notes how this relatively moderate Muslim apocalyptic writer – little of the characteristic anti-Semitism and ferocious violence in his works – created a possibility for temporary moderation: “If God has really decreed the destruction of Israel in that year, it is sacrilegious to attempt to destroy it beforehand. Hence Hamas’ willingness to speak about a truce with Israel.”
But while conditions of growing cognitive dissonance produce face-saving formulas, they also, as we have seen, encourage coercive purity and still more indiscriminate violence. Already as the first Intifada faltered in the early 1990s, Hamas apocalyptic cult of blood and death intensified as the exorbitant hopes of destroying Israel it had inspired, collapsed. And this upping of the ante came partly as a response to the fragility of Hamas’ own apocalyptic Endtimes prophecies failed.
At the same time, however, the turn toward the End… showed the Intifada under severe threat, its truth revealed only in ecstatic obliteration – precisely the logic of the suicide bomber who would save his world by blowing it up.
The Oslo Process (1993-2000) took matters still further in the wrong direction. Giving up on war now was bad enough, but making peace with the intolerable enemy? Impossible. Each negotiation, therefore, brought its harvest of martyrs who gave their lives to assure that the peace process would “collapse.” A Hamas operative exulted over the results the Ninth round of the Peace Negotiations:
In little more than eighteen days the number of martyrs has gone to thirty-five, and this number did not exist in the past, and we have never seen a number like this except under the shadow of negotiations…”
Oliver and Steinberg’s study illustrates the world of belief in which the Palestinians turned to suicide terror – the apocalyptic religious world of the highest stakes: “no” to any compromise, “yes” to every violence, anything to provoke Armaggedon, anything destruction to save the world. Where 19th-century anarchists declared: “God is dead, everything is permitted, the apocalyptic Jihadi of the late 20th century declared, “Allah wills it, everything is permitted.”
 The first case was a Christian Palestinian woman from *** who blew herself up near Israeli soldiers in 1982.
 The Tamil Tigers were the first to copy Hizbullah; see Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 60-75.
 MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series – No. 53, May 2001.
 Cited in Berman, Terror and Liberalism, p. 98. See also, Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya’s renunciation of violence: Al-Musawwar (Egypt), June 28, 2002. Cited in MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis Series – No. 309, December 22, 2006.
 On the Islamic prohibitions, see Lewis, “License to Kill.” Qaradawhi condemned 9-11, invoking this principle of not attacking innocent civilians (from BBC Newsnight, July 8, 2004).
 One of the great weaknesses of the Palestinian movie Paradise Now (2005) is the lack of real emotion, motivation and preparation behind the two men’s determination to undertake a suicide mission. Overall, one does not get the impression that the religious dimension holds much significance for the director, Hany Abu-Assad.
 On the prohibitions, see Lewis, “License to Kill;” Qaradawhi condemned 9-11, invoking this principle of not attacking innocent civilians (from BBC Newsnight, July 8, 2004).
 Jalal Adualrub, comment at a thread on condemnations of Bin Laden by other Muslim authorities at Islam Life. The author is an active Jihadi warrior. 10-Feb-07]
 Cook “Muslim Fears or the Year 2000,” Middle East Quarterly 5:2 (June, 1998); Understanding Jihad, pp. 142-7. On the legal restraints on killing civilians in Jihad, see Bernard Lewis, “License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin’s Declaration of Jihad,” Foreign Affairs 77 (1998), p. 19; on the problems for Islamic theology posed by suicide terror, see the earliest study on the issue, Re’uven Paz, Hit’abdut ve-G’ihad ba-Islam ha-radiḳali ha-Palestini: ha-pan ha-ra’yoni (Tel Aviv: Merkaz Mosheh Dayan le-limude ha-Mizrah ha-tokhon ve-Afriḳah, Universiṭat Tel-Aviv, 1998).
 See above all, Robert Pape’s Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic to Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2005) which pushes the functionalist “rational choice” paradigm to its extreme.
 See Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill, pp. 19-44, specifically in the context of the Palestinian case.
 For a study of the apocalyptic setting of Hamas and suicide terrorism in the mid 1990s, see Paul Steinberg and Anne-Marie Oliver, The Road to Martyrs’ Square: A Journey into the World of the Suicide Bomber.
 On the impact of the Oslo Process on the apocalyptic thinking of the post-’67 Kookists, see Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days. It produced two unprecedented acts of violence from those circles, Baruch Goldstein’s attack on the Muslim worshippers in Hebron and Yigal Amir’s assassination of Yithak Rabin: see Ehud Sprinzak, Brother Against Brother: Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination (New York: Free Press, 1999). See also below, n. 233.
 See Hamas Charter (above, n. 46), article 14 (The Three Circles); article 13 (Peaceful Solutions and International Conferences).
 “The Oslo accords of September 1993—in which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization agreed on a set of terms—marked a turning point for apocalyptic writers, leaving them temporarily speechless. But quickly they ascribed the whole process to a plot by the dajjal. In Jericho: the Cursed City, Muhammad ‘Izzat ‘Arif wrote that the Jews had given Jericho (which together with Gaza was the first piece of land Israel withdrew from) to the Palestinians because of a curse in Joshua 6:26 against anyone “who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho.'”
 Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic, pp. 120-22; Gold, The Fight for Jerusalem, pp. 237-8
 Oliver and Steinberg, Martyrs Square, p.110.
 Oliver and Steinberg, Martyrs Square, p.179.
 Ibid., pp. 114-81. In this sense, Timothy McVeigh, Baruch Goldstein and the Hamas suicide bombers shared a common apocalyptic logic (Gorenberg, pp. 203-8).